The Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften: Events
Thursday, 27 October 2022, 18:00
Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften of Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Lecture series »Sinophone Classicism« | online
Tarryn Chun (University of Notre Dame)»Surface Classicism & Large-scale Multimedia Tourist Performance in the PRC«
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Participation via Zoom
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About the lecture
This talk investigates the ways in which digitally enhanced tourist performance in the PRC mobilize classicist aesthetics and poetics to connect classical literary topoi to a broader shared sense of Chinese culture among audience members. Since the early 2000s, the popularity of Zhang Yimou’s »Impressions Series« has led to the growth of large-scale performances at destinations such as West Lake in Hangzhou, Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province, and Dunhuang in Gansu Province—locations that also feature prominently in classical poetry, Buddhist religious practice, and the Chinese national imaginary. These elaborate shows capitalize on the latest advancements in spectacular performance technologies and engage with the Chinese literary tradition, often literalizing well-known poetic images and literally overlaying the stage with Chinese characters, landscape paintings, and photographic images. Digital technologies transform live performance into a projection surface, yet in doing so also project a form of classicism that seems only skin deep. Building on the theoretical work of media studies scholars Giuliana Bruno, Audrey Yue, and others, this talk will explore the »surface tensions« inherent in these works. It argues that while critiques of the superficiality of large-scale performance remain valid, that very superficiality (as well as its rootedness in digital technologies) is also instrumental in enabling classicism to resonate with broader audiences. Examination of surface classicism in popular performances therefore allows us to reconsider the relationship between classicism and cutting-edge technology, materiality and immateriality, liveness and mediation in the digital age.
About the speaker
Tarryn Li-Min Chun is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame. Her research focuses on intersections of aesthetics, politics, and technology in modern and contemporary Sinophone theatre. Currently, she is completing a book manuscript entitled Revolutionary Stagecraft: Theatre, Technology, and Politics in Modern China, and her work has appeared in journals such as Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, TDR, and Asian Theatre Journal, as well as in several edited volumes. She is co-editor with Xiaomei Chen and Siyuan Liu of Rethinking Socialist Theaters of Reform: Performance Practice and Debate in the Mao Era (University of Michigan Press, 2021), which won the 2022 Excellence in Editing Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and she received a 2021 National Endowment for the Humanities (USA) Fellowship for work on her second book project, »Spectacle and Excess in Global Chinese Performance«.
About the lecture series
In recent years, literary and cultural works that evoke the cultural memories of classical Chinese traditions are gaining popularity in the global Sinitic-languages space and cyberspace. From literary to visual culture, from pop music to fashion, from state policies to daily rituals, these classicist articulations present Chineseness as complicated, multifaceted, multilingual, and cross-cultural. They raise important questions on the relevance of Chinese traditions today to China, to global Chinese communities, and to a future of »world literature«—as Goethe envisioned it nearly two centuries ago. In this multiannual lecture series, prominent scholars, writers, and artists will present fascinating case studies from their research or draw upon their aesthetic practices to elaborate on their understanding on these important questions. Such investigations demonstrate the abundant aesthetic and intellectual resources that the vast repertoire of Chinese cultural memories may provide to engage in a dialogue on the present and future of a global culture.
Concept of the lecture series: Zhiyi Yang, Professor of Sinology, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and Goethe Fellow at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften